When Is It Time to Scale Your Business?

January 15, 2013

I started my business — helping other small businesses with content strategy like blogging, email marketing and social media — with one big goal in mind: supporting my lifestyle.

My business allows me to put my writing skills to use and still have plenty of time to focus on my own brand, namely my guides & courses. Even more importantly, I’m able to make a good living while doing something I enjoy. (Here’s how I make money, if you want details.)

Helping this rose bloom.

Helping this rose bloom.

The business has grown quickly, really quickly. I began this side hustle in 2010, left my day job in 2011 to focus on the biz full time, and now have client requests coming out of my ears.

This is a GOOD problem, of course; I’m not complaining. But it’s forcing me to make a decision: stay purposefully small, or scale up?

I have already forced myself to focus on what pays. I have recruited a team of awesome contractors to help me. I have said no when projects don’t fit into my overall goals.

Yet I’m now at a turning point I can no longer ignore. Do I want to continue to grow my business to meet demand?

The Pros and Cons of Scaling Your Business

The easy answer is YES, of course I’ll grow my business to meet demand. How does a go-getter say NO to opportunity? How does an entrepreneur say NO to a check? How does a creative say NO to working on another exciting project?

But when you keep saying YES, sometimes you lose sight of your true goal. (Click to tweet this idea.) Sometimes you get sucked into the highs of mini wins and realized you’ve totally forgotten about why you started this in the first place.

It’s like when you work a job you don’t enjoy, but you make good money and get raises every year, and over time you start to forget why you wanted that money in the first place — probably to live the life you want, which maybe you’re not living if you’re working all the time to earn that paycheck. Or you start using social media to sell more books, but after a while you realize you’re spending so much time online that you no longer have time to do what you really care about: writing.

I started offering value for clients to support my lifestyle, not to grow a scale-able business, and I don’t want to lose sight of that. But I also find myself more interested in business now than ever before. You couldn’t have convinced me to take a business course in college, and now I’m reading The Personal MBAfor fun. I’m fascinated by Lean Startup methodologies. And I see a direct link between how hard smart I work and how much money’s in my bank account. For the first time, I see how growing my own business aligns with creating the life I want to live.

What I’m saying is, our goals and desires change over time. And right now, scaling my business sounds like a fun challenge, a move that makes sense.

It also sounds SCARY. I’ve never done this before, and I don’t really know what I’m doing. But that’s also what makes this worth doing, because it’s yet another chance to learn — and learning makes me happy and satisfied. I’ll figure it out along the way, like I always do.

For now, I’ll start with what I often recommend to you: baby steps. Making a list and checking off items. Asking myself what I can do RIGHT NOW to make this seem less daunting, to get myself on the right track. And I know that pushing myself to move in this direction before I’m entirely ready will likely work in my favor.

Do you have any advice about scaling a business? Can you see the value of staying purposefully small instead?

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7 Replies to “When Is It Time to Scale Your Business?”

  • Alexis, to answer the question at the end of your article: I think you hit the nail on the head when you said “desires change over time”. I don’t see scaling a business inherently being better than staying small. I can say that, from experience, it is a lot of fun–and insanely stressful–to work on building a scale-able business (a business I would define as being more than just my putting effort into it, i.e. a 1 man “get paid by the hour” deal).

    Ultimately, it just comes down to goals. Do you want to have built up an asset that you could sell in 5 years (i.e. creating a scale-able business), or are you fine with just doing what you’re doing? Great blogs on building cool businesses include MyWifeQuitHerJob.com and IWillTeachYouToBeRich.com

  • Totally agreed, Alexis…especially on the point re: staying at a job you don’t like just because the pay is good. Comfort is the enemy of progress!

  • Amy C says:

    Hey Lexi,

    I just found this article on Freelance Switch and it reminded me of your post:

    http://freelanceswitch.com/money/freelance-business-scaling/

    Sounds like an exciting time for you – can’t wait to hear more about it 🙂

  • NOAEfame says:

    This is where it hits me when you said “Or you start using social media to sell more books, but after a while you realize you’re spending so much time online that you no longer have time to do what you really care about: writing” Alexis this what I was actually scared of when I wrote that “I am not a marketer”. The thought of selling books and giving up writing scares me. It is often exhausting to think about it. But I will stay purposefully and make it small and see how everything will go.I am glad I can read through your work and get myself together. Thank you so much

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